For ultramarathon runners, a strategy is very important. It is never a good idea to run an ultra trail event without a strategy or plan. The good thing is if you are already an ultra runner, you might actually be performing already the “ultra marathon run walk strategy”.
Now since you or we are not among the elites, its just impossible to run the whole distance. I think even the elites don’t run on some parts of the race especially on uphills which are too steep. But, they are able to counter it with a continuous fast hike.
This article will talk about how I also do the run walk strategy on my races. And take note, this is for trail running. I will have a different article on implementing this strategy for road running.
The General Run Walk Strategy
I will share with you first the general idea behind this strategy. It’s RUN the downhill and WALK the uphill. It’s that simple. If you are able to do this, then most likely you will get to the finish line.
More Thoughts about this Ultramarathon Strategy on the Trail
Aside from Uphills and Downhills, the trail could also have some flats. In my practice, as much as possible I run all the flats especially if I could manage it. I still listen to my body.
However, recently even though I could run the flats for a long period of time, without knowing it I get pretty much exhausted the moment i stop. So what I did, when I reach a certain distance like 2-3k on flats, even though I’m not super tired, I stop and walk for a minute or less.
Additionally, when I’m approaching an Uphill, I stop running on the flats around 100-200 meters. This gives my heart and lungs a time to rest prior to hitting the Uphill. As much as possible I hike an uphill in one go. But, if it’s lengthy, I cut it into 2-3 stops. Lesser is best since I find it hard to rest properly in the middle of an Uphill.
This technique worked wonders for me. I don’t easily get tired. Of course, I rely not only on this run walk technique but also on my nutrition which of course is another topic to cover.
How I train for This Strategy
On my regular run, I run on flats. Usually, when I prepare for a trail event, I train on the trail during weekends.
So the route on my regular runs allows me to run straight a distance of 2-3 kilometers. So when my schedule for that day is to run 6k, I stop 3 times running straight for 2 kilometers only. It actually depends on mood, sometimes I stop 3, sometimes 2 times only.
This style of training allowed me to mimic my experience on the trail where I don’t run straight for more than 3 kilometers. I got used to this and its what I do on my events. In my future races, I plan to increase the distance to around 4-5 kilometers but I would only do this if I could train for it.
So far, this is the only time I have for training so this is what I will apply on race day.
Since we are all different, you could improvise, like you could go 3-5 km straight. Especially when you have enough time to train. When you get used to it, you could also apply it during the race day.
The important thing with training is consistency. You need to be consistent. The best thing to do is to try to keep your goal achievable. For me, my longest regular run is 8k, the average is 6km. I don’t go for more since I get too tired after the run that I don’t have enough energy for work.
Also for times when I have to sleep late because of work, I only run 3k in the morning or I never run at all. It’s too exhausting to run without enough sleep. And it usually leads to headaches for me.
During Race Day
Now during race day, it’s pretty easy to forget about this strategy especially after the gun start. It’s because during this stage you are simply full of energy and your legs are still getting fired up. Do not fall for this trap. It is still best to follow your plan.
This is also the reason why I always remind myself an hour before the run about my plan. I have this short talk with myself about my Run Walk Strategy. This way, I run with my mindset to follow my plan.
Don’t mind anyone who passes by. They might have trained more than you so don’t race with them. Run at your own pace.
Also, do not envy those who are running the uphills since its either they are not mindful at all or they have trained well for the race. Again, run on your own pace or according to what you have planned.
If you are not planning for a podium finish, it is best to we wise in going for an ultra trail. The best way to do this is to apply the run walk strategy. It’s easy and natural to do. However, it does not mean that you don’t need training. You still have to train for this strategy to work.
Have you tried this strategy? How did it go for you?